A UK family has voiced anger after being left “stranded in Cyprus” as British Airways pilots staged the biggest walkout in the airline’s history.
Around 195,000 passengers are being affected by the 48-hour strike in a dispute over pay which has grounded hundreds of flights.
BA has offered a pay rise of 11.5% over three years but the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) says its members want a bigger share of the company’s profits.
Georgina Chapman, who is in Cyprus for her sister’s wedding, accused BA of “not caring” after the airline cancelled her family’s flight back to the UK.
The mother-of-two, from Hertfordshire, said BA had offered a return flight on 12 September, meaning her husband and brother-in-law will miss planned work on 11 September, and the ordeal will cost them more than £2,000.
“After trying to call BA 300 times – in tears and wasting nine hours of my holiday – I finally got through, only to be told I wasn’t entitled to anything,” Mrs Chapman told Sky News.
“And as I’m already on holiday they would only refund me part of my ticket, which was £460 to use to buy other tickets.
“But if I was to buy flights, you’re looking at around £250 each. And we have now extended our accommodation for three extra days, plus our car hire, our dog boarding and extra spending money.
“I am also missing extra unpaid days off work.”
Georgina’s husband Andy added: “We are very disappointed. I don’t think [BA] have looked after their customers at all.
“I’m really surprised. They are a huge company and they haven’t thought about who it’s affecting, it’s just not good enough.
“They’ve left us here, to panic – to worry about finding our own way home. I am so disappointed at how they’ve treated us.”
BA has apologised to passengers, saying it understands “the frustration and disruption Balpa’s strike action has caused our customers”.
In an interview with Sky News, the airline’s chief executive Alex Cruz said the action was an “own goal” and part of a “cynical” action by the union. He also demanded fresh talks with no pre-conditions.
He said: “We want to resolve this dispute as quickly as possible for our customers and, frankly, for everyone that works at British Airways.”
BA had prepared for weeks for the strike and given travellers advanced notice.
Balpa general secretary Brian Strutton said pilots were determined to be heard.
“They’ve previously taken big pay cuts to help the company through hard times,” he said.
“Now BA is making billions of pounds of profit, its pilots have made a fair, reasonable and affordable claim for pay and benefits.”
British Airways operates up to 850 flights a day and Heathrow Airport will be the most affected by the strikes as it is the airline’s hub.
A further strike is planned for 27 September.
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